Ontario, boasting the nation’s largest city, Toronto, and serving as the capital in Ottawa, is not only an urban hub but also an expanse of wilderness and pristine lakes. Home to one of Canada’s most frequented natural wonders, Niagara Falls, this vast province, approximately 15 times larger than the state of Texas, offers limitless opportunities for travel, adventure, and family enjoyment.
In the warm summer months, visitors flock to Ontario to explore top-notch museums and galleries, partake in family activities at amusement parks, unwind at lakeside resorts, engage in paddling or fishing in lakes and rivers, camp in scenic parks, and behold iconic landmarks such as the CN Tower.
Come winter, while some embrace outdoor activities like skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and winter festivals, others turn their focus to indoor pursuits like attending hockey games, shopping, fine dining, enjoying Broadway shows, and exploring various cultural attractions.
From quaint small towns to bustling metropolises, Ontario caters to diverse vacation preferences. Plan your trip and uncover the best places to visit in Ontario.
1. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls stands as Canada’s most globally renowned attraction, drawing millions of tourists annually. While comprising three sets of falls, the largest section, known as Horseshoe Falls, cascades approximately 57 meters, forming an impressive curtain of water spanning between Niagara Falls, Canada, and Niagara Falls, USA. The falls gain acclaim not only for the substantial volume of water coursing over them but also for the remarkable drop, creating a truly magnificent spectacle.
Situated directly within the city of Niagara Falls, the falls are conveniently accessible. Visitors can stroll down the main tourist strip in Niagara Falls, a captivating spectacle, leading to the gorge’s edge. Here, a walkway offers panoramic views of the river and the falls. For those based in Toronto, day trip tours can be easily arranged from hotels or hostels, with the journey by car taking approximately 1.5 hours.
2. Toronto’s CN Tower
The CN Tower stands proudly as one of Canada’s most iconic structures, gracing the Toronto skyline with its 553-meter height. Illuminated at night, the tower’s presence is visible from various points across the city and its surroundings throughout the day and night. However, visitors often choose to ascend the tower for a comprehensive experience.
An elevator facilitates access to the observation deck and restaurant, situated approximately three-quarters of the way to the top. The panoramic view is breathtaking, offering vistas of the city and Lake Ontario. On clear days, the visibility extends to the mist rising from Niagara Falls. In the evening, the sparkling city lights create an impressive spectacle.
For those seeking thrills, the Edge Walk is an option. Strapped in, participants step outside the Sky Pod, embarking on a 30-minute stroll around the tower, 166 stories above the ground. This experience is not suitable for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights, but it’s a paradise for adrenaline junkies.
Located in downtown Toronto, the tower is surrounded by new Ripley’s Aquarium and Rogers Centre, two of Toronto’s top attractions.
3. Art Gallery of Ontario
Situated in downtown Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) stands as one of Canada’s esteemed art galleries. It boasts an exceptionally noteworthy assortment of Canadian paintings, emphasizing artists hailing from Ontario and Toronto. Additionally, the AGO houses the largest collection of African and Oceanic Art in Canada, presented within a museum setting.
Among its notable features are paintings and sculptures by European masters, as well as Modern and Contemporary collections representing North America and Europe. The gallery hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year; refer to the AGO’s website for the most up-to-date list.
4. Royal Ontario Museum
Located in downtown Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum stands as one of the province’s foremost museums, showcasing a diverse array of collections spanning natural history, science, and cultural exhibits from various parts of the world.
Frequently abbreviated as the ROM, this museum experienced expansion in 2007, resulting in the addition of a contemporary and distinctive extension named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. The structure now combines both historic and modern architecture, presenting a visually striking facade.
The Royal Ontario Museum is conveniently situated within walking distance of the intriguing Gardiner Museum and the upscale shops along Bloor Avenue.
5. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is home to some of the nation’s most significant collections, featuring a robust assortment of works by Canadian artists, including the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and other renowned figures. The gallery also showcases important pieces by well-known international artists.
Situated in an ultra-modern architectural masterpiece designed by Moshe Safdie, the National Gallery building is a striking landmark.
Following your visit to this captivating museum, extend your museum exploration by crossing the bridge to the Canadian Museum of History or taking a stroll to the delightful ByWard Market for a culinary experience.
6. Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital is where most visitors embark on their sightseeing in Ottawa. The buildings are situated in a picturesque setting on an elevation above the Ottawa River. The Peace Tower, standing at over 90 meters high between the Senate and the House of Commons, is the most prominent and frequently photographed structure.
In front of the Parliament buildings lies the Centennial Flame. During the summer, visitors can witness the Changing of the Guard on the lawn in front of the Houses of Parliament. For those fortunate enough to be in Ottawa on July 1, they can partake in some of the most significant Canada Day celebrations in the country.
Daily guided tours of the Parliament Buildings, encompassing the Senate, House of Commons, and the East Block, are available at no cost. While same-day tickets are obtainable, it is highly recommended to book well in advance online.
7. Muskoka and Cottage Country
One of Ontario’s most renowned summer destinations is an area referred to as Cottage Country or Muskoka. Situated north of Toronto, this region is centered around Lake Muskoka and several other popular lakes in the vicinity.
While you can discover areas of comparable beauty throughout Ontario, the proximity of this region to the city, just two to three hours from Toronto, has rendered it exceptionally popular. The lakes are surrounded by upscale cottages and summer residences of Torontonians. On weekends, the highways to Cottage Country are congested with traffic as people escape the urban heat to unwind around the lakes.
This is also an enjoyable area to explore, with many individuals renting cottages or staying at luxury resorts. Cottage Country comprises several small communities, with Gravenhurst being the primary town located on the shores of Lake Muskoka. From here, visitors can embark on historical steamships for a brief cruise and tour of the lake.
8. Lake of the Woods
To explore the remote wilderness landscapes of Ontario, one of the optimal destinations is Lake of the Woods and its surrounding areas. This expansive body of water is situated on the sparsely populated provincial borders of Manitoba and Ontario, extending into the state of Minnesota. Offering a stunning backdrop, this beautiful lake delivers an unspoiled wilderness experience for those seeking an adventure in the backcountry.
While some individuals own cottages on Lake of the Woods, the lake’s distance from major cities and its vast size result in cottages being scarce. It is also a prime destination for tourists who visit Canada for fishing excursions.
Lake of the Woods presents excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and immersing oneself in the Canadian wilderness. Islands line the ruggedly indented Canadian north shore, while the south shore features flat, sandy areas and marshy landscapes. Since 1688, the lake has served as a passage westward for trappers and voyageurs.
The primary town on Lake of the Woods is Kenora, Ontario, where visitors can find accommodations, arrange charter flights, hire fishing guides, and obtain supplies.
9. Canada’s Wonderland
Located approximately 30 kilometers northwest of Toronto’s city center is Canada’s Wonderland, an expansive theme park that operates during the summer months. For residents with children, an annual trip to Canada’s Wonderland is among the top summer activities. However, as the premier amusement park in Canada, this attraction draws families from across the country.
A variety of roller coasters and thrill rides suitable for children of all ages, along with a water park, dinosaur park, and live shows, are just a few of the offerings. In 2023, Canada’s Wonderland has plans to unveil two new rides: the Tundra Twister and Snoopy’s Racing Railway.
10. Blue Mountain Resort
Situated just outside the town of Collingwood, on the shores of Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain Resort is one of the most sought-after ski resorts in Ontario. Blue Mountain Village, located at the hill’s base, offers upscale dining establishments, high-end shops, and premium accommodations. The hill is family-friendly and a favorite destination for residents of Toronto.
Operating year-round, the resort is nearly as bustling in the summer as it is in winter, offering a spectrum of activities such as rock climbing, ziplining, mountain biking, and hiking.
11. Fort William Historical Park
Fort William Historical Park is a recreation of the inland headquarters operated by the Northwest Company during the Canadian fur trade from 1803 to 1821. Located on the banks of the Kaministiquia River in south Thunder Bay, the Fort encompasses 57 buildings spread across 250 acres.
Every summer, fur traders, voyageurs, and First Nations people would gather at the Fort for the annual “rendezvous,” facilitating the exchange of tons of furs from western posts with trade goods from Montreal, all transported by birch bark canoes within a single season. This efficient system played a crucial role in establishing the Nor ‘Westers as a dominant force in the fur trade.
The Fort provides a captivating glimpse into fur trade life, exploring various themes ranging from furs and food to muskets and medicine. It showcases a cultural mosaic featuring Scottish fur traders, French Canadian voyageurs, farmers, and artisans, as well as Aboriginals and Métis.
However, the park is not solely dedicated to the fur trade. On the same grounds, you’ll find the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory (DTAO), home to one of Canada’s largest public telescopes.
12. Stratford Festival
The fine residents of Stratford located just 60 kilometers northeast of London, Ontario, honor William Shakespeare each summer by hosting an internationally renowned festival dedicated to his works. This celebration attracts significant audiences, particularly from the Toronto area.
Since 1953, the 2,250-seat Festival Theatre has been showcasing plays from May to October, with a predominant focus on Shakespearean works. Over the years, the festival has expanded to include three additional theater venues, presenting plays not only by other renowned writers but also by emerging playwrights. Typically, each season features a repertoire of at least 12 productions at the Stratford Festival.
13. Thousand Islands
Stretching across an 80-kilometer expanse of the St. Lawrence River is the picturesque natural enclave referred to as the Thousand Islands. These islands rest upon a granite shelf that extends from the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains in the United States, with the US-Canada boundary cutting between them. Renowned as one of the oldest and most cherished vacation spots in Ontario, the region attracts cottagers, boaters, and those seeking respite from the urban bustle of Southern Ontario, particularly during the warm summer months.
Among the most favored activities in this area is embarking on a Thousand Islands Sunset Dinner Cruise, navigating through the labyrinth of islands. These cruises operate from mid-April to mid-October.
Gananoque serves as the primary resort town in the vicinity and acts as the primary gateway to the Thousand Islands.
14. Rideau Canal National Historic Site
When in Ottawa, a visit to the Rideau Canal is essential, as it is one of Canada’s most renowned artificial waterways. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dating back to the early 19th century, the canal has been meticulously preserved, retaining much of its original appearance.
Enjoy a stroll along the pathways flanking either side of the canal, observing the passage of boats through the locks. An enjoyable activity in Ottawa is to partake in a Rideau Canal cruise. Operating on a 100 percent electric-powered passenger vessel, this 90-minute tour covers the city’s prominent attractions, including the Château Laurier, the National Arts Centre, and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
During the winter months in Ottawa, seize the opportunity to rent skates and experience the world’s largest skating rink. In January, the Rideau Canal transforms into a 7.8-kilometer-long skating route, featuring warming huts and food vendors offering the iconic (and incredibly tasty!) Beavertails.
Q: What is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?
A: The summer months offer the most comfortable weather, but the falls are breathtaking year-round.
Q: Are there camping facilities in Algonquin Provincial Park?
A: Yes, Algonquin Provincial Park provides camping opportunities for nature enthusiasts.
Q: How can I explore the Thousand Islands?
A: Take a scenic boat tour to experience the beauty of the Thousand Islands up close.
Q: Are there affordable accommodation options in Toronto?
A: Toronto offers a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels.
Q: What makes Tobermory’s water crystal clear?
A: Tobermory’s clear waters are a result of the unique limestone formations in the area.